The Trees Beyond the Grass (A Cole Mouzon Thriller) (30 page)

BOOK: The Trees Beyond the Grass (A Cole Mouzon Thriller)
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CHAPTER 92

“COLE! COLE!” CASH
crawled across the floor, lame in his left leg. He called out for him again as he finally reached Cole just as he heard steps in the dark. A light was shined into his eyes; his eyes tried to readjust but saw only light.

“They’re in here! Come on, get in here!” Leas’ voice filled the room. He moved the light across the room until it landed on Cole. There, in the corner he was sitting up, Jackie’s head in his lap. Blood was running down his leg. A drop fell to the floor in a faint wet thud. Cash pulled himself to Cole as Leas looked over from across the room. Jackie attempted to speak, but only thick, viscous bubbles of iron red came up. Lifting her hand to cup Cole’s cheek, one word escaped, “Love,” before going limp and falling into his body. Fighting to hold on to the salvation of his internal wall, he sat there for a several seconds before an EMT rushed in and Cole released her, grabbing Cash’s neck for shelter.
Don’t fail, don’t fail
… He released, still cold from the moment.

Leas leaned down and pulled Cash’s arm around his neck, lifting to pull him up. The three walked back through the corridor into the now misting rain outside. Lightening cracked miles away, shining its white and blue hue through the night sky. Cole stopped and looked up as Leas lead Cash to a flashing ambulance that had backed up into the flooded grass in front of the battery.

 

THE WALL CAME
CRASHING down with a heavy internal thud, exposing his body to the rawness of his emotions. Like an old movie, images of Jackie flickered across his mind, starting at his earliest memory, working its way through youth, their strong connection, until the last slide… her lying dead in his hands. She was gone.

The tingling heat of sadness crept up from his temples and slowly consumed his face and throat. His mind swirled in dizzying, sweeping movements. He was helpless to fight the tide of loss that consumed him as he looked up into the dripping sky and collapsed onto his knees. Still looking up, feeling the drops colliding against his face, he succumbed to his tears, letting them flow across his cheeks and into the soggy ground beneath him. Another surge of emotion rippled across his body, forcing him to reach out with his right hand and lean into the ground, heaving up the bitterness of his loss in loud cries, the tannic acid of yearning for things taken. He was there, alone, as the tears seeped out of him like poison from a wound. Between them he cried out in painful sounds and sobs until slowly the flow of emotions returned to a trickle and calm came over his body.

Looking around with his red eyes, he saw Cash had been moved to the back of an ambulance and was getting checked as a covered gurney presumably carrying Jackie’s body was wheeled out and placed in another truck. Cole looked away to avoid another flood. The tears had stopped, not because he didn’t hurt, but because he had just run out. Looking back into the ambulance, Cash was laid on a stretcher being sedated for the ride to East Cooper Hospital. Having regained enough strength to lift himself and move, Cole walked over to Cash.

Agent Leas approached to check on both men briefly and to inform him that Beth Winters’—Poinsett’s—body had been found, shot in the back. He was otherwise at a loss for words as the EMT stepped in. “Mr. Mouzon. We need to go. Will you be joining us?”

Cole looked to Cash, now laid out on a collapsible gurney, its yellow legs standing out amongst the white interior of the cramped space. Cash turned his head with slow, pained rotation to look behind him at Cole and mouthed, “Go…go.” Cash caught Cole’s hand as he stood to exit. Though they only held for seconds, the moment lingered in Cole’s palm like the holding of a tight fist too long, lasting until he reached MeMe’s place and knocked on her old wooden screen door. It was now almost six a.m. and the sun was rapidly pushing forward into the morning. MeMe opened the door and Cole didn’t have to say a word. Tears flowed like ribbons across her soft wrinkled face. She turned and Billy stood behind her. Cole dropped to his knees and spread his arms while tearing up again and rolling down Billy’s back.

CHAPTER 93

JACKIE’S FUNERAL CAME
quickly. Cole had picked up Cash from the hospital in the morning because he refused to miss the funeral. Billy had been quiet, with long bouts of crying in the week since that night on Sullivan’s Island. But seeing Cash momentarily offered a break from his loss. Billy liked Cash’s wheels, taking any opportunity to jump in his lap and ordering him to spin the wheelchair in circles. It was temporary, so Billy was advised to enjoy it while he could. Cole’s family had turned the ceremony into a flower jungle. At least the flowers were pink. The entire police department had come out and most of Charleston County as well. If one’s value to society is ranked by the number of people who show for your funeral, Jackie was very much loved. Jackie would have raised hell over such a production. Funerals aren’t for the dead, but for the living.

The day before, Leas had briefed Cole on the investigation. Poinsett’s real name was Beth Winters, or at least that was what she had it changed to after leaving Charleston. She had returned and attended MUSC, the Medical University of South Carolina, but dropped out her third year when questions arose about patient abuse in her eldercare clinic. By all indications she acted alone. He was following up on her claims of being the daughter of the original kidnapper and killer of Cole’s mom. The story was panning out so far, with witnesses confirming she dated Mark Calhoun immediately before his death. They had reopened his death but there wasn’t much they could do ten years out. And, she was now dead, too.

Ava had lost her only daughter and retreated deep into depression in the days leading up to the funeral. She now sat quietly next to his father, lost in her emotions. Cole worried most for her. Jackie was her daughter but also her friend. Henry had come up from Florida and that seemed to provide some additional support to Ava. Cole’s father was playing the support for the entire family, refusing to show the hurt he was certainly feeling. Cole worried this would throw his father back to the bottle, but that had yet to be seen. Granny was heartbroken by the loss, but seemed to be faring the best. When MeMe came over after the funeral they sat on the back porch laughing up a storm. Probably in no small part to the Bailey’s Cole had picked up at her request before returning home. By the number of returns to the ice bucket, the bottle was half empty within the first hour.

The mood was broken momentarily when a shot rang out in the back yard. Every officer in attendance had drawn, only to see Granny yelling into the marsh. “You get out of my creek, you fool gator! This isn’t your buffet.” Granny had pulled out her old twenty-two and shot warning shots to scare off the six-foot gator, but he wasn’t paying her any attention. MeMe girlishly giggled under her hand as the crowd looked on.
Jackie would have loved that moment.

Looking out over the marsh and his Granny, Cole missed his sister deeply. Amongst all the other feelings, was dread of what had just become his life. As Billy’s named guardian, he was an instant parent. He wanted children but when suddenly handed one, even Billy, he felt helpless and the questions to be answered seemed too numerous to tackle. How would he work and be a single parent? Where would he live? How would Billy handle all this change? There were no quick answers and that bogged Cole’s mind down with doubt.

 

OVER THE NEXT
several days it was agreed that Billy needed a break. For now, everyone needed to heal. He would take Billy back to Denver with him while his parents packed up his sister’s house to put on the market. Charleston carried too many memories of Jackie. The family decided Florida was just a better place to recoup once the house was addressed. Cole had already promised to bring Billy down for a Disney week before school started at the end of the summer. But until then it was just the boys. They both needed time to heal and bond.

The realities of that hadn’t set in as Cole crossed over the Ravenel Bridge toward the airport. A song about giving up Manhattan came on the radio. Cole looked across to the steeples of Charleston on his left and then the mash far down on his right. The yellow morning sun caught the blades and danced on the river’s waters. As a long note was held by the singer on the radio, he thought the song was fitting. He knew that sometimes healing is merely making the choice to take the step forward…to refuse to stand still…to step backwards. He had stood still too long since Atlanta. Looking at Billy in the back seat through the rearview mirror, he promised himself that even if just baby steps he
would
move forward.

One of those steps meant eventually dealing with Cash. It had been days since the funeral without more than text contacts from him. Cole was torn between wanting him close and also wanting him very, very far.
It is just better this way
, he told himself. Even without the events that led to their meeting, he already felt damaged. Though the mental counting of days had stopped, he still felt alone, empty…guilty.

“Are you okay?” In the end, Cash was there, against Cole’s protests, looking over to Cole driving.

“Yeah, sorry…just a bit tired.”

Cash looked at the man beside him and wondered if he were crazy…delusional for putting so much energy and placing his life on the line for someone he had never met and who, in Cole’s opinion, was damaged goods. Cash just looked back with his blue eyes and smiled warmly.

Cole turned back to Billy in the mirror and continued his self-analysis. The dream was still there too, hunting his dreams every night. If the threat of Poinsett made it return, it should have gone away when she died in the battery on Sullivan’s Island. Cole reasoned it was just his head trying to comprehend it all and eventually the dream would return to the darkness from which it came and never be seen again.

Stepping out of the car, the two men hugged. An overwhelming sense of longing washed over Cole as he felt the warmth of Cash’s arms against his core. His skin tingled with sadness. Though he tried, the wall refused to go up, forcing him to feel the raw emotions of the moment as he forced a slight smile. Their meeting had been anything but ideal, and there were many more questions than answers. Standing in drop-off area of the airport was no place to start. Fighting back tears, they promised to stay in touch. Doubt crossed Cole’s mind, he had heard that before, but he held out the slightest hope for being proven wrong.

CHAPTER 94

GETTING OFF THE
plane in Denver, Billy was quiet and subdued. Reality had hit hard that his mother was gone, he was in a new place and he needed to find a way to survive. Cole picked him up and held him against his shoulder, his teddy bear backpack flapping with each step. He could feel the tears soaking though his shirt at the shoulder as Billy finally unloaded his emotions. One of the gate attendants looked at them both with a concerned smile as Cole fought hard to maintain his own composure to avoid a total meltdown in the middle of DIA.

Catching a taxi, Billy laid his head on his uncle’s lap, where he promptly passed out from his emotional exhaustion. Cole looked out the window taking in the vastly different landscape of Denver compared to Charleston and wondered if he would ever see again the city that was in his blood, that he had once craved. The time in Charleston had worn him thin and he didn’t know if he could be the same.

Trying to just occupy his mind with the passing warehouse a text buzzed in and he retrieved the phone vibrating in his pocket. It was Cash. “I miss u. Hope ur flight was safe. DEN n a month?” For that brief moment a smile crossed Cole’s face and a feeling of hope lingered that everything would be okay. Perhaps Charleston still held some happiness for his life.

EXPLORE THE WORLD OF COLE MOUZON

Maps and insight:
Robert-Reeves.com

 

Locations, recipes, characters
@ Pinterest:

http://pinterest.com/crobertreeves/

 

Sound Track
@ Spotify:
http://spoti.fi/1cUM9nC

 

Connect with the author @

 

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/a.robertreeves

Goodreads:
http://bit.ly/161XAjI

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/CRobertReeves

Web:
Robert-Reeves.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robert Reeves was born and raised in and around Charleston, South Carolina where his family still resides. He currently lives and practices law in Denver. Accompanied by his dog Cooper, Robert frequently treks the Rockies searching for inspiration for his next novel. To inquire about a possible appearance, please contact him directly at
[email protected]
or

http://www.robert-reeves.com
.

BEFORE YOU GO

If you enjoyed
this book, please spread the word. Review it on Goodreads and/or your favorite bookstore website including: Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo.

COMING SPRING 2014

WHEN ASPENS QUAKE.
Cole Mouzon has returned to Denver to heal from the loss of his sister and learn to be the parent Billy desperately needs. As Cash Calhoun continues to chip away at Cole’s defenses from Charleston, events in Atlanta cause Agent Leas to believe Poinsett was successful in drawing out the Taker, placing Cole in danger once more. Together, the three search for answers in Georgia before the Taker can finish what Poinsett started.

 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

COPYRIGHT

DEDICATION

PROLOGUE

DENVER

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 18

CHAPTER 19

CHAPTER 20

CHAPTER 21

CHAPTER 22

CHAPTER 23

CHAPTER 24

CHAPTER 25

CHAPTER 26

CHAPTER 27

CHAPTER 28

CHAPTER 29

CHAPTER 30

CHAPTER 31

CHAPTER 32

CHAPTER 33

CHAPTER 34

CHAPTER 35

CHAPTER 36

CHAPTER 37

CHAPTER 38

CHAPTER 39

CHAPTER 40

CHAPTER 41

CHAPTER 42

CHAPTER 43

CHAPTER 44

CHAPTER 45

CHAPTER 46

CHAPTER 47

CHAPTER 48

CHAPTER 49

CHAPTER 50

CHAPTER 51

CHAPTER 52

CHAPTER 53

CHAPTER 54

CHAPTER 55

CHAPTER 56

CHAPTER 57

CHAPTER 58

CHAPTER 59

CHAPTER 60

CHAPTER 61

CHAPTER 62

CHAPTER 63

CHAPTER 64

CHAPTER 65

CHAPTER 66

CHAPTER 67

CHAPTER 68

CHAPTER 69

CHAPTER 70

CHAPTER 71

CHAPTER 72

CHAPTER 73

CHAPTER 74

CHAPTER 75

CHAPTER 76

CHAPTER 77

CHAPTER 78

CHAPTER 79

CHAPTER 80

CHAPTER 81

CHAPTER 82

CHAPTER 83

CHAPTER 84

CHAPTER 85

CHAPTER 86

CHAPTER 87

CHAPTER 88

CHAPTER 89

CHAPTER 90

CHAPTER 91

CHAPTER 92

CHAPTER 93

CHAPTER 94

EXPLORE THE WORLD OF COLE MOUZON

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

BEFORE YOU GO

COMING SPRING 2014

BOOK: The Trees Beyond the Grass (A Cole Mouzon Thriller)
6.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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